Archive for the 'M.S. Rau Blog' Category

Art Depicting Art: “Oedipus Rex” by Renoir

December 7th, 2013 | posted by Bill Rau
Renoir captures the dramatic apex of the legendary Greek tragedy in this work entitled Oedipus Rex

Renoir captures the dramatic apex of the legendary Greek tragedy in this work entitled Oedipus Rex

In 1895, Renoir was commissioned to paint a series of paintings to decorate the home of the director of the Theatre des Varietes, Paul Gallimard. Perhaps one of the best loved Impressionists of all time, Renoir was renowned for capturing all of his subjects with grace and sensuality and Gallimard, a patron and friend of the artist, thought the artist’s work a perfect fit for his homes in Paris and Normandy. Revered for his figures, still-lives, and landscapes, Renoir chose a theatrical subject for the director’s homes. Encouraged by his friend, the actor Mounet-Sully, Renoir did a series of sketches and paintings depicting a quintessential highly-charged and dramatic moment in theater. The result was this remarkable painting, an awe-inspiring and dynamic canvas depicting Mounet-Sully in his most famous role as Oedipus inL’Oedipe Roi, a French version by Jules Lacroix of Sophocles’ iconic Greek drama.

In this painting Oedipus, having gouged out his eyes after learning of his despicable crimes, is seen groping his way out of the palace, as his subjects look on in terror. Known for his idyllic landscapes and softly painted portraits, Renoir’s 1895 painting, Oedipus Rex, is an incredibly unique and dramatic subject choice for the artist. This exceptional painting depicts a pivotal scene from the Greek tragedy – the final scene of the drama as Oedipus exits the palace confronting the citizens of Thebes. This intimate masterpiece displays Renoir’s uncanny ability to render life, movement and texture and clearly exhibits the brilliant color that the artist infused into all of his works. The exquisite tension and turmoil of the moment is depicted with Renoir’s quick, feathered strokes and intuitively blended applications of pigment.

The Athenian tragedy, Oedipus Rex, was first performed in 429 B.C. and chronicles the story of Oedipus, who becomes the king of Thebes. Sentenced to die at birth because his father King Laius, receives a prophecy that he would be murdered by his own son, the infant Oedipus is left by his mother, Queen Iocaste, on a mountainside. Rescued by a shepherd, Oedipus is given to the King of Corinth who raises him as his son.

The drama continues when as a young man Oedipus is told by an oracle that he will shed the blood of his father and marry his mother. Desperate to avoid this fate, Oedipus flees Corinth and during his journey, travels on the road to Thebes and encounters Laius. Unaware of each other’s identities, Laius and Oedipus quarrel over whose chariot has the right of way. The argument becomes violent and ends when Oedipus throws Laius from his chariot and kills him. Shortly after, Oedipus solves the riddle of the Sphinx freeing the kingdom of Thebes from a curse and as a result the Queen, Iocaste, marries him. At this point in the play both prophecies are fulfilled, although none of the characters are aware of it.

The tumultuous moment is rendered through the Impressionist master's uncanny use of color and texture

The tumultuous moment is rendered through the Impressionist master’s uncanny use of color and texture

As the play unfolds many more incidents highlighting the futility of avoiding one’s fate occur and individual identities are revealed to the leading characters, but only after Oedipus and Iocaste have had many children together. Horrified by their relationship, Iocaste hangs herself and Oedipus blinds himself with her hairpins.  It is at this point in the play that Oedipus emerges out of the palace to confront the citizens of Thebes with his blindness and to demand his exile. It is precisely this dynamic and highly charged scene that is portrayed by Renoir in this exceptional and intimate portrait.

The youngest member of the Impressionist movement, an astute Renoir recognized how a subject was constantly changing due to the dynamic effects of light on color. Capturing a particular moment in time, or an “impression,” was central to the artist’s philosophy and Renoir distinguished himself among his contemporaries with his intuitive use of color and expansive brushstrokes.

Sadly the project for Gallimard’s homes never came to fruition and the director never acquired the finished Renoir paintings so they remained in the artist’s studio, together with several related drawings to be eventually dispersed with the artist’s estate.

Today, Renoir’s work continues to increase in value and the drama of Oedipus continues to be a quintessential icon of western literary, artistic and psychological genres. Renoir’s fame, as well as the classical scene and notable patronage of this particular work, make it an important and notable contribution to 19th century art.

The Inventor of Nocturnes

November 22nd, 2013 | posted by Danielle Halikias

 

The Dockside Liverpool at Night

The Dockside Liverpool at Night

Many of us spend time daydreaming, lots of “what ifs” flit through our heads and our hearts.  Imagine you work as a clerk for a railroad, but you know you are destined for something else.  You are 24, living in a manufacturing town, and already have a growing family; would you take the leap to follow this dream?  Luckily for us, and in spite of having no formal training, John Atkinson Grimshaw felt the pull towards the art world and followed it.

The year is 1861 and Grimshaw’s first concerted forays into the art world are cautious and meticulous. The delicate early paintings serve as reminders that the artist is taking a huge risk, a risk that would make anyone at least a little hesitant.  Drawing inspiration from the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and their battle cry of “truth to nature”, however, Grimshaw soon begins to develop his own unmistakable style.

Whitby

Whitby

 

By the late 1860s Grimshaw had firmly established the style and subject matter that led James McNeill Whistler to remark: “I considered myself the inventor of nocturnes until I saw Grimmy’s moonlit pictures”  This style incorporates tones and luminous qualities that have gone unmatched by other artists.

All in the Golden Twilight

All in the Golden Twilight

Grimshaw’s atmospheric works tend to feature a large expanse of sky with precise consideration to how light reflects off other elements in the scene, often pools of water or crisp autumn leaves.  Another reoccurring theme in the artist’s oeuvre is the lone figure along a path.  This evocative combination of evening and solitude has the effect of producing an overwhelming sense of nostalgia in the viewer.

Moody and patiently crafted, John Atkinson Grimshaw’s works have made him a favorite among discerning collectors.  Whistler’s ode to Grimshaw’s prowess is certainly accurate; you may search far and wide, but simply put, no other artist can capture the passing of the evening sky like Grimshaw.

 

 

Serpents & the Sea

November 15th, 2013 | posted by Deborah Choate

Bursting with the boundless power of Mother Nature, the ocean has been the subject of some of the most evocative pieces in art history.  In considering that economies and lives have been made and ended on the ocean it is easy to understand the fascination it holds, besides its purely aesthetic value.  This role of the ocean in our collective psyche has given birth to countless myths and legends.  Of course some of the most lasting and beloved myths in Western culture have been handed down to us from the Greeks and the Romans.  Poseidon to the Greeks and Neptune to the Romans, this God of the seas plays muse to several dynamic pieces here in the gallery.Sacred to Neptune Ewers

These amazing vessels are crafted in the famed “Sacred to Neptune” design created by renowned artist John Flaxman in 1775. Featuring finely modeled figures of tritons serving as the handles, as well as dolphin masks and swags of cattail plants, the treasures are laden with aquatic symbolism.  The acclaim of this design exemplifying the love of ancient Greco-Roman styles shared between England and France.   This exceptional design is most often found in pottery form, as the renowned maker Wedgwood produced it in both black basalt and jasperware. It was also beautifully realized in silver by the Royal goldsmiths Rundell, Bridge, and Rundell. However, bronze versions of this neoclassical masterpiece are exceptionally rare, with French examples being even rarer.

30-0977_1Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t share this fantastic work of art we recently acquired when discussing Neptune.  While the dark waters represented here are those off the shore of Hendaye Beach in France, this piece is a phenomenal reminder of the awe-inspiring powers of the sea.  Painted by Hippolyte Pradelles, tumultuous waves and a steel grey sky painted with bravura brushstrokes combine here to create a work with an incredible presence.

This sculpture is a replica of arguably the most famed sculpture ever created.  In fact, Michelangelo referred to the original as “The greatest piece of art in the world”.  This is the fantastic marble sculpture thatLaocoon tells of the death of Laocoön and his sons when the Goddess Minerva sends serpents from the sea to silence them forever.  Their deaths were byproducts of the famed Trojan War; it was Laocoön, a Trojan high priest, who was not swayed by the Greek’s offering of a large wooden horse. He started to warn the people of Troy with the famed statement “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”.  According to Virgil, the God Minerva, anxious to protect her Greeks, immediately sent two sea serpents to kill Laocoön and his twin sons before they could warn more Trojans of this deception.

The sea, its symbols, myths, and bounty figure prominently in all three of these pieces, to fabulous results.  Sinewy creatures and windswept seas are expertly executed in bronze, oil paint and marble.  If you find these items as captivating as I do, let’s talk soon to discuss how we can make them yours.

Dining Elegance

November 8th, 2013 | posted by Lyndon Lasiter

Grape ShearsFor many, some of the most pleasurable memories we hold are of evenings spent around the dinner table.  The way we eat together now, however, is still a relatively new construct.  In fact, the fork was not commonly used in Western Europe until the 1500s and the concept of a separate room for dining would not take hold until the 18th century.  Once these changes were underway, however, dining quickly became an elaborate affair.

As coursed meals came into vogue, a plethora of specialized utensils began to appear on the table, and silversmiths spent more and more time on crafting and decorating these items.  These grape shears by the preeminent British silversmith Paul Storr, for instance, were crafted in 1817 and made to serve only one function: to separate small clusters of grapes away from their woody stems.29-0921

In modern society these lavish details have been reserved for special occasions, such as holidays.  In fact, “Bringing out the good china” has become synonymous with efforts to elevate a dining experience from the everyday.  Of course, if you want to really make the evening one to remember, all you have to do is bring this impressive tureen to the table. Extremely rare due to its size, this highly-collectable silver vessel was crafted by Paul de Lamerie and is hallmarked London, 1741.  It is such a superior example of his work, in fact, that an almost identical tureen is pictured in Ellenor Alcorn’s book Beyond the Maker’s Mark: Paul de Lamerie Silver in the Cahn Collection.

Whether you’re looking for silver serving dishes, porcelain place settings, or crystal stemware, I know that we can help you find the perfect piece for your next evening of entertaining.

A Grand Dining Experience: The 224-Piece American Silver Dining Service

November 1st, 2013 | posted by Bill Rau

There was a time when dining was much more than enjoying good food amongst family and friends, it was a luxurious event that could make or break one’s reputation in social circles. A household’s most expensive furnishings and accessories 29-9822 could be found in the dining room, but perhaps none reflected the taste and sophistication of the owner better, or more elegantly, than the silver.

This is certainly the case with this outstanding American Silver Dining Service. Our suite for 12 guests comprises not only an exceptional Francis I sterling silver flatware service by Reed & Barton, but also a remarkable 69-piece hollowware set by Redlich & Co. The entire 224-piece ensemble is housed in its fitted mahogany chest, which even has two flanking compartments that house a pair of serving racks. Everything from beautiful serving trays and plates, to a complete tea and coffee service, tazzas, a rose bowl, and even a demitasse set, make this service truly grand.

Extensive services that include both flatware and hollowware are rare to find on the market, as they were custom-ordered by the most elite of society, especially royalty. The most recent example was once owned by the Maharaja of Patiala, India and recently sold at Christie’s London this past July. Created in 1921 by the Goldsmiths and Silversmith Company of London, this incredible flatware and hollowware service sold29-9822 well above auction estimates, bringing in over $2.96 million. Only two other combination sets, both less comprehensive than our American service, have been brought to auction in the past decade. Reed & Barton and Redlich & Co. were among the most highly respected silver firms in the United States, and to find such a unique and phenomenal collaboration between two renowned American silver companies is remarkable.

One can only imagine the magnificent sight of a dinner table set with these luxurious pieces. A distinguished silver service such as this was much more than pretty silverware with which to serve food. It was a statement of refinement that no dinner guest would soon forget.

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